The city of Washington received 14 applications from residents who want to participate in the proposed Citizens Review Board for the city’s police department.
“Now we have to review those applications for eligibility,” said Mayor Scott Putnam. “It looks like there’s enough interest to find enough eligible board members.”
Putnam said he and Andrew Goudy, president of the Washington Chapter of the NAACP, will likely sit down this week to review them.
“I was hoping for at least 10 or 12, so we’re right at that goal or a little better,” Goudy said.
Goudy said the leaders of his organization worked hard in the last two weeks to get the word out about the applications and the April 8 deadline. The applicants had to be 18 years old, have a high school diploma or equivalency, and have no felonies or misdemeanors pending or on their record.
The review board concept was presented last summer, when Goudy approached council with concerns and a proposal for a police oversight committee. Goudy said in an interview Monday that it’s a “particularly interesting” time to continue the conversation, after recent police confrontations received national attention.
Goudy referenced a recent incident in Virginia, during which a police officer pepper sprayed a Black uniformed military officer during a traffic stop. One of the police officers involved in the incident has since been fired, according to national reports.
“If it can happen to a military officer like that, it can happen anywhere,” Goudy said. “There’s nothing special about Washington, Pennsylvania. I think we’ve been lucky that, so far, there have been no incidents quite like that. People think that until something like that happens, we don’t need an independent review board, but I’m proactive. I’d like to try to prevent an incident like that from happening.”
Putnam said after reviewing the applicants, the city would need to pass an ordinance creating the review board.
“Then the members would start working on creating bylaws and getting their training,” Putnam said.
According to the proposal, seven residents would serve a four-year, unpaid term. Goudy, Putnam and Washington police Chief Robert Wilson would also sit on the board.
It was previously reported that the Fraternal Order of Police union president would sit on the board; however, the current president, Matthew Karlowsky, said in an interview Monday that he has “no intention” of sitting on the board.
“How do you sit on a board if you’re supposed to represent officers?” Karlowsky said. “We have no intention of recognizing this board. We believe the training for those board members would be lacking severely.”
Karlowsky said their union contract doesn’t expire until 2023, and that this review board would “need to be negotiated under Act 111.
“Any attempts to try to create and seat or move forward with this board, we will be filing an unfair labor practice through our FOP attorney,” Karlowsky said.